Opposite the funeral director's at the bottom of my road the other day I met a woman I know vaguely and because it was so close to the new year we stopped to chat. I asked about her kids and she about mine. On that grim corner, in the late afternoon, the pavements wet, the traffic as always, noisy, she told me the story of a boy who's just dropped out of university, who sits at the dinner table dribbling because he's so stoned, who takes ketamine, methadone, cocaine, anything to lose himself. A boy she imagines will one day be homeless from his inability to care for himself, to care about anything. She told me cocaine's cheaper on the streets than it's ever been, that he can get anything he wants within minutes.
Is it us, is it money, is it the city, is it absence of expectation, is it tv? My local authority has a campaign to clear the streets of chewing gum. That's our message for the new year. And there are children at local schools who are stoned in classrooms. Who smoke crack in the playing fields. Who are out of their heads on skunk and drink all weekend, playing chase with community coppers and occasionally police dogs.